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Title: Radha Longs For Krishna
Artist: Gopal Kumawat
School: Kishangarh

“Lali mere Lal ki, jit dekho tit lal,Lali dekhan mein gayi, mein bhee ho gayi lal”, that is, wherever you behold, it is the crimson brilliance of my Lord; I went to behold it and I too got dyed in his red.

In the painting, there echoes this couplet of Bihari. Bihari is basically romantic in his vision, although his ultimate perception is spiritual. The artist is led by the romantic fervour of Bihari’s couplet. Lost in the love of her lord, the heroine of artist’s imagination finds around her only the maddening image of him, who is none else but Krishna. The word ‘lali’ used in Bihari’s couplet also means ‘image’, and it is this meaning of the term that the artist has adopted.

Queerly, the maiden, with her down-cast eyes, perceives around her only Krishna’s face, repeated in a ring, and at the same time has behind her Krishna following her, something difficult to reconcile, for when he himself is there why she has his dream-like vision. An imaginative artist like Gopal Kumawat would not have his theme so simply rendered. His heroine is wedded to a worldly spouse, has adorned herself for him and followed by him is heading towards her lotus bed, obviously to unite with him in love, but having loved none else but Krishna to whom she is spiritually wedded, she perceives Krishna all around her and even in the face of her worldly lord she perceives the face of her real lord, who is Krishna. Her union with her ‘real’ lord is so perfect that even in a worldly figure she discovers the image of her divine lord. The message is obvious, and quite close to Gita. The devoted self, even when wedded to worldly pursuits, has in her vision only the ‘Purna-Purusha’, the Supreme Being. This seems to be an analogous representation of Mirabai, the great poetess and Krishna devotee, who was compelled by her husband, to inhale arson and embrace death because she claimed herself to be only Lord Krishna’s spouse, although she was married to a royal personage, the Rana of Mewar. It deeply hurt Rana’s ego that Mira saw even in his face the face of Krishna. Later, the entire Rajputana plunged into Krishna cult and Mewar itself had at Nathdwara the principal seat of Ballabh’s Pushtimarga, but despite, Mira’s portraits were disallowed. Hence, for over three hundred years Mira’s portraits did not come into being. Her lately rendered portraits are only imaginary. May be, Gopal Kumawat, while rendering Mira, maintained the traditional cult of obscurity of her portraits and preferred to paint her only as a “Nayika’, as per Indian literary and aesthetic tradition.

The young maiden is also the portrayal of a ‘Mugdha-nayika’, a young artless immature girl infatuated in love. ‘Mugdha-nayika’, as defined in ‘Nayika-bhed’, is one of the classes of young maids who are in love. The Indian theory of ‘Nayika-bhed’, which represents the earliest and the most authentic classification of womankind discovering her in her varied roles, primarily shaped the perception of woman in art as well as literature in medieval India. ‘Mugdha-nayika’ has been identified as the bud ejecting drowsily to unfold its petals and bloom upon the crimson bed of new-born leaves. She is the bowl brimming with nectar yet to be tasted and consumed. She puts lampblack in her eyes, ‘mahawara’ on her feet, ‘hina’ on her palms and the best of jewels and clothes and dresses her long hair usually trailing below her waist like a she-snake and takes hours to adorn but does not have a minute to look at her. Unaware of herself and least of her clothes and ornaments she treads her path. She gazes in void as if riding a majestic horse there would emerge galloping from it the hero of her dreams. He would come straight to her and would clasp her to his bosom. Then, there would grow wings and riding them they would fly back to their dream-land.

‘Mugdha-nayika’ has a youthful figure consumed neither by age nor by use. Her usual slender tall figure has extra lean waist and conversely protruding breasts and buttocks. Medieval Hindi poets, in their depiction of ‘Mugdha-nayika’, imagined that the Creator adds to the breasts of a ‘Mugdha-nayika’ the gold that He has substracted from her waist- ‘kati kau kundana katakar, kuchan madhya rakha deen’. The ‘Mugdha-nayika’, unable to bear alone the brunt of ‘Kama’, the Love-god, wanders more within herself to find the lord of her love and develops in her dreams the highest kind of him and beholds him all around her. Lord Krishna is in medieval poetry and art the hero of the most of such maidens. Gopal Kumawat, while rendering his vision of Mirabai, has also created the most perfect model of ‘Mugdha-nayika’.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specialises on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.